Mathew (Matt) Dolf’s PhD Thesis Defence

Title: “A Life Cycle Assessment of the Environmental Impacts of Small to Medium Sports Events”

Chair: Prof Xiaotao Bi (Chemical and Biological Engineering)
Supervisory Committee: Prof Robert Sparks, Research Co-supervisor (Kinesiology), Prof Gunilla Öberg, Research Co-supervisor (Resources, Environment and Sustainability), Prof Olivier Jolliet (University of Michigan)
University Examiners: Prof Brian Wilson (Kinesiology), Prof Kasun Hewage (Civil Engineering – Okanagan)
External Examiner: Prof Calvin Jones (Cardiff Business School, Cardiff University, United Kingdom)

Abstract: In the face of climate change and environmental concerns, sport event organizers have incorporated measures to improve environmental sustainability into their event planning. In 1994, the IOC added the environment as the third pillar of the Olympic Movement, alongside sport and culture, to signal its importance. However, event organizers don’t have a clear picture of the impacts of their events and are only beginning to use quantitative data as part of their planning process. The scientific literature and the event industry have recognized the need for theoretical and methodological work to better assess and understand the pattern of environmental impacts of events. The need is greatest for small to medium sized events.
The goal of this research was to analyze the explanatory power and use-value of Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) to examine the environmental impacts and inform planning of small to medium events. Two case studies were conducted: the UBC Athletics & Recreation varsity 2011–2012 athletic season (UBC Athletics) held at the University of British Columbia over a one-year period, and the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games (SOC 2014) held over five days in Vancouver, British Columbia. LCA methodology was used to quantify and compare the environmental impacts in key organizational areas.
The findings show that LCA has the potential to identify environmental impacts within small to medium sport events. They also show that impacts related to venues dominated across all environmental impact categories for UBC Athletics due to energy consumption and construction materials. Travel was the dominant contributor for SOC 2014 and was a major contributor for UBC Athletics – largely due to people travelling from out of town. The activities related to accommodation, materials, waste, communication and food were significantly smaller contributors to the overall environmental footprint. Sport organizers would benefit from applying LCA as a quantitative tool to rigorously identify areas of significant impact and target planning efforts accordingly, particularly for long distance travel and activities with significant energy use. Finally, I conclude that organizers need to be more aspirational in how they design events and leverage societal change to become environmentally sustainable.